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Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court

Tribunal Metropolitano del Condado de Bernalillo

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Initiative to Reduce Failure-to-Appear Rate Showing Positive Results

06/19/2018

 

 

The failure-to-appear rate for those who opted in to Metro Court’s courtesy Text Reminder Service has been cut by more than half since the court began the initiative a little more than a year ago.  

From the implementation of the service on April 18, 2017 to April 18, 2018, of the 8,681 hearings in which the text reminders were sent, only 493 of those hearings resulted in a failure-to-appear, producing a 5.7 percent failure-to-appear rate.  Whereas, 12,681 of 101,414 hearings were missed by those who didn’t sign up for the service, resulting in a 12.5 percent failure-to-appear rate.  Within that same time period, 5,824 people signed up for the court reminders. 

“The courtesy text reminders not only provide a service to those appearing in our court, but the taxpayers benefit too. This simple, cost-effective program is getting people to court and preventing bench warrants from being issued which otherwise strain resources on a number of agencies,” said Chief Judge Edward L. Benavidez.  

Metro Court pays $800 annually for the service, which is covered by the court’s general fund.  The cost to issue, process, and serve a bench warrant is around $100, and that fee is generally passed on to the offender.

“Something typically easy to resolve, like a speeding ticket, can turn into a $500 ordeal for a person who continually misses court,” added Judge Benavidez. “That’s what we’re trying to prevent, and the text reminders easily alleviate that situation.” 

The initiative has been so successful that the court has expanded it to felony cases. Since mid-April of 2018, those appearing in Metro Court for a Felony First Appearance have been given the option to receive the text reminders for their upcoming Preliminary Hearing, which can be set as far as 60 days out.  Before, the service had only been offered to those with a pending traffic or misdemeanor criminal case in Metro Court.

“We wanted to see if it would work,” said Judge Benavidez.  “Since it’s producing the results we hoped for, we may look to offer the service to civil litigants in the future.”

Those who sign up for the court reminders receive two text messages before a scheduled hearing – one a week ahead and a second the day before.  Subscribers may cancel the service at any time and are subject to charges from their cell phone provider.

In the case that a text message does not go through to the recipient, he or she is still responsible for showing up to court, and a bench warrant may be issued if he or she fails to appear.      

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